Four months in: From an enthusiastic amateur, to an informed professional

Researching and understanding the latest and emerging thinking on inclusion and diversity

On the April 1st 2017, I started as Fujitsu’s first ever ambassador for diversity and inclusion.

This was a role created with two primary purposes in mind: Firstly, in recognition of the great work that we are doing already in some of our locations around the world, there’s an opportunity to share more about what we are doing both within and outside of Fujitsu. Secondly, in recognising that we can learn a lot from other businesses, this presents an opportunity to dedicate resources (i.e. me!) to finding out more about the latest thinking in the areas of diversity and inclusion, how other global corporations make it work, and the implications of, and role of, technology in those areas.

Now that I’m four months into my assignment, it’s time for a little reflection! Ever since I moved from my executive role leading our UK Public Sector and Transport Business, I’ve been completely immersing myself into researching and understanding the latest and emerging thinking on inclusion and diversity. I’ve spoken to over 50 people in organizations large and small, international and national. We’ve discussed a wide range of aspects of the subject, including understanding their take on D&I, what’s worked for them, and what hasn’t, where they take their inspiration from, what obstacles they’ve had to overcome, how they’ve systemised their approaches, and what they’d view to be the most important lessons they’ve learned.

I’ve also spoken to a similar number of people from third-party bodies. Experts in the field on race and ethnicity, on disability, on gender balance and so on. International bodies like the United Nations and the International Labor Organization (ILO) who bring a wider context to the field in terms of social justice and macro-economic impacts and the role companies can play.

My engagements with D&I advisory bodies have triggered additional insights, as have the discussions I’ve had with academics. That’s an area I’m keen on to engage further on so that we can balance the “anecdotalism” on the subject (of which there is much) with the rigour of academic research to indicate what has been proven to actually work, or not.

From an internal Fujitsu perspective, I’ve had meetings with some of our most senior executives in Japan and those leading business areas around the world, with those leading our existing D&I activities, as well as with local champions and enthusiasts.

During that time I’ve also read at least two hundred pieces of literature, ranging from academic papers to management reports, with a backlog of about the same number to work through!

Having been in a “line management”/executive role for quite some time it has taken a while to adjust to a work schedule that isn’t dominated by dashing from one meeting or conference call to the next, with emails and phone calls squeezed in between! The opportunity to assimilate a wide range of inputs from which to draw conclusions on the latest thinking is invaluable given what this could mean for a company like Fujitsu with 155,000 people employed around the world.

Some of the feedback that I’ve had has included how refreshing it is that Fujitsu has chosen to appoint someone into this role with a global remit, and for that person to be an experienced line of business executive rather than a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Human Resources (HR) professional. I was also pleased to be told towards the end of one discussion that I have clearly transitioned during this time from an enthusiastic amateur, to an informed semi-professional with some unique insights!

It’s apparent that organizations of all shapes and sizes are increasingly recognising that getting inclusion and diversity right should be at the heart of their strategy. It isn’t a “bolt on” through a CSR programme, or a project that should be led by HR. This is about relevance in the world, it’s about the ability to survive and be successful, and it’s about bringing the corporate strategy to life, and delivering to the bottom line. To use the well-known quote of Charles Darwin:

“It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

Inclusion and diversity is a challenge for corporates to adapt to change. Everyone in the company needs to be involved, and every business flow should be considered with this lens.

There’s so much that I could cover in terms of insights so far, however, perhaps the easiest here is to highlight the key success factors that have come out from my research so far:

  • Senior sponsorship and leadership from the very top of the company
  • Have a meaningful strategy; specific objectives, expectations, targets for each D&I area
  • Have a global programme and resources; set corporate context and ensure regions and countries are on track
  • Start somewhere; don’t expect to have everything ready for one big launch
  • Be bold; set targets/objectives and be prepared to declare them publicly
  • Engage with external bodies; supports development of improvement plans and benchmarking, learn best practice
  • Hold high profile events; including for designated groups to give them a boost and raise awareness
  • Integrate into all aspects of the business; i.e. all aspects of the employee lifecycle, as well as the customer lifecycle
  • Involve everyone; leave nobody behind

Other aspects include how we frame the discussions. I was interviewed in HRZone recently where I shared a concern that sometimes there’s perhaps too much focus on difference. I firmly believe that inclusion is for everyone, and affects everyone. An “identities perspective” is useful here. All of us have several identities at any one point in time (think male/female, parent/non-parent, carer/non-carer, people with disabilities/without, straight/LGBT+, new starter/experienced professional, and so on). Not only do we have several such identities, but they also change as we progress through our lives and careers.

We are all different in different ways, and workplace inclusion is about making the workplace work for us all, irrespective of what our “differences” may be.

Going forward, my intention is to continue the programme of internal and external meetings/discussions, as well as researching new content. I will deepen my engagement with academics and other businesses on some projects and associated research to contribute to the knowledge in these areas. I will also continue to involve more of our senior executives, and look forward to being more engaged in Asia and the Americas. I’m also planning to up my blogging and vlogging game!

I’m going to continue to be quite busy it would appear!

Contact me to discuss these or related topics, via Twitter and LinkedIn.

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